I returned to Sarsaparilla Trail the following day. The Pied-billed Grebe and Ruddy Duck had disappeared, but the Hooded Mergansers were still there, swimming and diving in the middle of the pond. A female scaup had joined them, as had eight Green-winged Teal; I didn’t even notice the Green-winged Teal hiding near the reeds at the back of the pond until something startled them into flight, causing the green patches on their wings to flash in the sun. To my surprise, a Green Heron was also still present. When I first saw it, it was flying low over the water; I wasn’t sure what it was until it landed among the downed trees near the beaver lodge. Then I spotted the bright yellow legs and green back. It seems rather late for him to still be here.
I heard a couple of Red-winged Blackbirds calling from the marsh and saw a single Song Sparrow in the shrubs next to the boardwalk. Then I spotted a mammal walking along the water’s edge on the other side of the pond. It wasn’t a deer, which I’ve seen here many times before; it was a coyote! He walked along the shore right behind the Green Heron and then disappeared into the vegetation. A few minutes later, he reappeared at the water’s edge several meters to the right.
Coyotes are not well-liked in my area, and the hunting of them often crosses the line into persecution. Although coyote sightings are described as “commonplace” by the Ministry of Natural Resources, I rarely encounter them on my outings. Whenever I see one I am usually thrilled, especially when I find one in a conservation area where they are less likely to encounter humans and are therefore less likely to engender conflict.
Coyotes migrated to Ontario more than 100 years ago, when settlers began clearing the southern forests. Since then they have adapted well to both rural and urban environments. Rural coyotes prefer open, agricultural landscapes interspersed with woodlots and other brushy terrain. Urban coyotes typically inhabit green spaces and industrial areas within cities, where they avoid people whenever possible. They are able to coexist with humans by feeding primarily at night and resting in bushy or wooded areas during the day.
As with most wild animals, if you keep your distance upon encountering a coyote, it will most likely avoid you. I had a close call with one in Stony Swamp a few years ago when I rounded the corner of the trail and saw one walking along the path toward me. However, I was on part of a trail where dogs are allowed and thought it was a dog that had been let off its leash with its humans somewhere behind. I was surprised when it walked into the woods upon seeing me, and quickly vanished into the brush. When I rounded the corner, the trail was completely empty…..there were no humans in sight. Had I realized what it was when I first saw it, I could have gotten some awesome photos.
This one didn’t linger by the water, but instead walked back into the tall grasses at the edge of the water and disappeared. Hopefully he will stay deep in the woods on the other side of the pond, away from the trails and roads, and stay safe.